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Re-leveling the playing field

States work to stop unfair advantages of cross-sex competition

Alanna Smith speaks during a news conference at the Connecticut Capitol in Hartford on Feb. 12. Associated Press/Photo by Pat Eaton-Robb

Re-leveling the playing field

Three Connecticut high school girls set off a wave of state legislative proposals aimed at blocking male athletes from participating in women’s sports.

Runners Selina Soule of Glastonbury High School, Alanna Smith of Danbury High School, and Chelsea Mitchell of Canton High School filed a federal lawsuit last month accusing Connecticut’s high school athletic governing body of violating a federal law that demands equal opportunities for women in education.

In a matter of weeks, lawmakers in Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and South Carolina introduced measures to protect girls from having to compete against male athletes who identify as female. With titles like the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” the bills aim to require student-athletes to compete on teams that correspond to their biological sex. Arizona’s bill already cleared the state’s House of Representatives last week. It now heads to the state Senate.

Mississippi Sen. Angela Hill, a Republican, said Soule, Smith, and Mitchell’s plight provided a wake-up call: “We want a policy in place in Mississippi before this happens. It’s not a matter of if. It’s when.”

The Connecticut lawsuit claims the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s policy deprived the three young women of track titles and scholarship opportunities after two male sprinters who identify as females won a combined 15 girls state championship titles. Their victories have taken away more than 85 opportunities for girls to participate in higher-level competitions in the last three years.

“We cannot continue to pretend that allowing males to compete in the girls’ category does anything less than spell the end of women’s sports,” said Christiana Holcomb, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal firm representing the Connecticut athletes.

LGBT advocates in some states argue the bills are trying to solve a nonexistent problem because only a small percentage of people identify as transgender and even fewer want to play sports. The Idaho High School Activities Association said a handful of transgender students have inquired about competing, but so far none have tried. Idaho state Rep. Barbara Ehardt, a Republican, the sponsor of that state’s bill, and a former college basketball coach, said as the number of children transitioning in the state rises, the girls are in danger of becoming “spectators in our own sport.”

The debate is also playing out in international sports. Three-time Australian Olympian Tamsyn Lewis Manou has called on the International Olympic Committee to take action amid reports that a record number of transgender athletes want to compete in the Olympics scheduled for this summer.

“People are scared to come out and say anything because of political correctness,” she told Australia’s 2GB Radio. “If we don’t take a stand, what’s going to happen to the female category of sport?”

Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska

A biological imperative

A federal judge last week ruled an Alaska healthcare plan that does not cover sex-change surgery is discriminatory. Jennifer Fletcher, a male legislative librarian who identifies as a woman, sued the state’s AlaskaCare health plan for employees, seeking coverage for the surgery that would have cost him thousands of dollars out of pocket. The lawsuit, filed in 2018, argued Fletcher’s diagnosis of gender dysphoria made the surgery “life-saving” and “medically necessary.”

U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland on Friday said AlaskaCare based its decision on Fletcher’s transgender status and would have covered the procedure if he needed it to correct a congenital defect. The state has not indicated whether it will appeal the decision.

Holland’s ruling follows others in California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin requiring healthcare workers to provide transgender services. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia maintain specific anti-discrimination rules related to healthcare and gender identity. Last June, Maine announced it would cover gender-transition services under Medicaid. —M.J.

Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska

Resisting change

The Canadian government introduced legislation on Monday that would criminalize so-called conversion therapy, deeming it “socially harmful.”

The proposed amendments to the country’s Criminal Code include offenses like causing a minor to undergo conversion therapy, advertising and profiting from the practice, and sending a minor out of the country for the therapy. Canadian Minister of Justice David Lametti said the practice, which includes attempts to help minors who want to embrace their God-given sexual orientation or gender identity, is “premised on a lie.”

The Canadian cities of Calgary and Vancouver and the province of Ontario already ban conversion therapy. Lametti said the proposed bill would not target private conversations about sexual orientation or gender identity with teachers, school counselors, faith leaders, or mental health providers.

But Ann Gillies, a licensed counselor from Ontario, said at a Campaign Life Coalition gathering last month that the proposed bill threatens to silence the church and ban “the power of God to change people.” —M.J.

‘The best earthly example’

James and Donna Eaton died side by side after 58 years of marriage as a tornado ripped through their middle Tennessee town last week. The force of the tornado threw the mattress on which they lay from their bed. They lived in one of the worst-affected areas of Mount Juliet, a suburb of Nashville. The March 3 storms killed about two dozen people in four counties.

James “Jimmy” Eaton would have turned 85 last week. He and his wife were longtime members of First Baptist Church of Mount Juliet, where their funeral took place on Sunday.

Jake Hardy-Moore, the Eatons’ grandson, called them the “best earthly example of what a marriage should look like. They showed Christ’s love and his sacrifice. … They were the ones we looked to when times were difficult, and they kept us pointed toward God.” —M.J.

Mary Jackson

Mary is a book reviewer and senior writer for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and Greenville University graduate who previously worked for the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal. Mary resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay area.


Thank you for your careful research and interesting presentations. —Clarke

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